By Brandon Lemons
This past Sunday, we concluded our eight-week study of Healthy Relationships. This was one of those sermon series from which I personally gained a lot as I prepared and delivered the content to the church family. I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on some of the key takeaway points from the series that I have appreciated and that I’ve heard others comment on.
Healthy relationships start with the heart. Jesus was absolutely correct when He said our words come from the overflow of what’s happening in our heart (Matthew 12:34). This is something I’ve thought about repeatedly during the past couple months. When I start to get upset with someone (including my children), it’s valuable to stop and consider what’s going on in my heart. More often than not, there is something that needs to be addressed in my heart in order to ensure my words and actions build the relationship rather than causing more frustration or strife.
The Gospel is a powerful influence on our relationships. While the Gospel has obvious benefits in our relationship with God, the Gospel can (and should) also transform how people relate to one another. Not only do God’s love and grace serve as an example of how we extend love and grace to others (see Ephesians 4:32), but God’s love and grace can transform our sense of identity and meaning in life, which empowers us to relate with others in a loving, gracious manner rather than feeling the need to prove, validate, or vindicate ourselves.
Disagreements don’t have to divide. The illustration of Jesus choosing political adversaries to be His disciples has resonated deeply with me and with others at Friedens. Matthew was a tax collector for the Roman Empire. Simon was so politically passionate against the Roman Empire that he earned the nickname “the Zealot.” Zealots were activists who wanted to free Israel from Roman rule. Although Simon and Matthew would have naturally been political adversaries, Jesus united them around a higher allegiance to Himself. As we saw in the sermon titled “How to Disagree Well,” Romans 14 also provides a powerful picture of how to get along with people even when we don’t agree with them. These are such important principles.
We can be angry without sinning. Anger, in itself, is not a sin (Ephesians 4:26). Anger is a natural response when we perceive something to be wrong. Rather than letting anger get the best of us, we can use it as a catalyst for addressing things that need to be addressed, and we can be quick to listen and slow to speak, which helps our anger be more constructive than destructive (James 1:19).
We absolutely must forgive if we want to be healthy emotionally. Forgiveness can be difficult when we feel wronged, but forgiveness is so valuable – not only fo the relationship, but also for ourselves. That’s why author Ken Sande says, “Unforgiveness is the poison we drink hoping someone else will die.”
Going to the source really works. Jesus’ teaching is so practical about talking one-on-one with a person who has wronged us or who we have a disagreement with. It’s basically the principle of keeping the issue as small as reasonably possible rather than pulling people in who don’t need to be involved. I am convinced that if every person sought to live this out, our world would be transformed. Although world transformation is unrealistic, going to the source still makes a world of difference in smaller settings such as families, churches, and workplaces.
I pray we all have benefitted from the Healthy Relationships series and will experience increasingly healthy relationship with those around us, for the praise of God’s glory.